French authorities are telling telecommunications companies across the country they will not renew licenses for 5G equipment from the Chinese tech firm Huawei, effectively pushing the company out of France by 2028, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The decision from Paris comes during an increasingly tense period between China and the West, particularly on grounds of economic cooperation. The United States—followed by Britain and others this week—banned Huawei from its own 5G network plans.
"France’s position is similar to that of Britain, but the government’s communication is different," one source close to the matter told Reuters. "Huawei can’t do much about it."
France does not intend to stop there. On Tuesday, Paris also made clear its intention to send independent observers to the Xinjiang region of China to assess potential human-rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims.
The move by France signals a tough stance on China from beyond the Anglo-American sphere to perhaps the European Union more broadly. Sentiments in Germany—the EU’s largest economy—are beginning to shift on the issue.
"We cannot trust the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party with our 5G network," said German MP Norbert Röttgen. Experts expect that if Berlin voted today, it would oust Huawei from the country.
While Britain and the United States have generally enjoyed a closer, "special" relationship, it is potentially telling that two of the EU and NATO’s largest states desire to join ranks with the United States against the People’s Republic of China. "EU member states do seem to be increasingly doubtful about Huawei," an anonymous senior EU official said. "The standard view is heading towards giving maybe just a very small role to Huawei [for 5G]," the official added.
While visiting London on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a "coalition" of pro-democracy states to stand up to China. "We want to see every nation who understands freedom and democracy … to understand this threat that the Chinese Communist Party is posing to them," he said.